10,000 EMS shifts left unfilled in Calgary: Alberta NDP

The Alberta New Democrats (NDP) say nearly 10,000 emergency services shifts were unfilled from July to October of last year.

The NDP says there were 400 Red Alerts in 2022 in those four months.

Whereas, according to the data the NDP obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, an average of 40 red alerts happened each month in 2019 in Calgary — when an ambulance isn’t available to respond to an emergency.

“That’s a tenfold increase of Calgary simply running out of paramedics on the UCP’s watch,” said Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley in a statement.

“We need real action. There are specific steps that paramedics themselves have been calling for, and the UCP have ignored for years.”

A red alert went into play for 86-year-old Betty-Ann Williams, after she was attacked by three dogs in June 2022. She was taken to hospital 30 minutes later and died of her injuries.

The Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) conducted a review, which said it would have taken 14 minutes, had the initial call been coded as “life-threatening.”

CEO of the HQCA Charlene McBrien-Morrison said there were no available ambulances in the Calgary Zone, there was a high number of high-priority EMS dispatch events at the time of the incident, paramedics were busy with patients at Calgary ER departments, and there was a shortage of staff in the EMS Southern Communications Centre that day.

Lack of resources and the poor use of communication were cited as reasons why it took a long time.

“The communication protocols were in place, they just weren’t used correctly,” McBrien-Mossison said.

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Notley says the NDP would launch the “largest health-care recruitment campaign Alberta has ever seen,” with a focus on attracting and recruiting qualified EMS workers.

“The work of a paramedic is both highly skilled and incredibly difficult. Paramedics attend traumatic events several times a day,” Notley said. “The Alberta NDP will bring real resources to the frontline and we will work respectfully with healthcare professionals.”

“If we want to have more paramedics, we need to start treating the ones we have better.”

CityNews has reached out to the office of Jason Copping, Alberta’s Minister of Health.

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